Unified Communications Touted For Healthcare Efficiency - InformationWeek

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Unified Communications Touted For Healthcare Efficiency

UC technologies can help healthcare organizations adapt to pay-for-performance reimbursement models, finds IDC study.

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In the complex data-driven world of healthcare, where clinical teams need to quickly access information from different locations, unified communications (UC) technology is a necessary investment to help increase efficiency, enhance operational performance, and improve patient safety, according to a IDC Health Insights report.

The report, Business Strategy: Unified Communications Optimizing Healthcare Operational Performance, found that the integration of data, voice, messaging, location awareness, and event management can be a valuable strategy for healthcare environments where the speed required to process patient information is critical to the decision-making process.

When health IT managers consider UC, they must also keep in mind that new care models such as accountable care organizations are transforming healthcare into a more collaborative and coordinated enterprise that requires a team effort from physicians, nurses, and caregivers who will be required to improve patient outcomes and quality measures across the full continuum of care.

[For background on e-prescribing tools, see 6 E-Prescribing Vendors To Watch.]

"The highly mobile and collaborative nature of today's healthcare is highly conducive to deploying mobile UC," Lynne Dunbrack, program director of connected health IT strategies at IDC Health Insights, told InformationWeek Healthcare. "Changing reimbursement strategies from fee-for-service to a pay-for-performance model under accountable care organizations will require improved coordination of care and collaboration among caregivers, especially for patients with multiple chronic conditions who are treated by various specialists."

The report says that UC can bring together a full range of technologies including telephony, voicemail, instant messaging, video, Web conferencing, and short message services (SMS), which run on mobile devices and computer workstations to provide real-time delivery of communications based on the preferred method and location of the clinician.

Dunbrack, who is the report's author, says she sees a growing role for UC in a number of areas:

-- As care teams constantly move from patient to patient and also transfer patients between care facilities, UC technologies can improve workflow and increase staff productivity.

-- UC can improve decision support with the use of highly portable smartphones that enable clinicians to instantly access peer-reviewed bodies of knowledge. Wireless push technology incorporated into the smartphone platform automatically updates these reference guides, eliminating the need for clinicians to remember to download updates on a regular basis.

-- Integration of UC into a hospital's transaction-based applications can eliminate the manual initiation of telephone calls. Integrating mobile UC into these applications enables required follow-up actions to be communicated automatically at minimum cost, and with a high degree of certainty that the communication is delivered to someone who can act on it in a timely manner.

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